Thursday, July 5, 2018

Surfcasting Central Maine’s Coastal Beaches

Casting a lure into turbid breakers or fishing bait off bottom, anyone who has not tried surfcasting is missing out on a truly unique fishing experience. Fortunately, Maine provides ample opportunities for sportsman, interested in trying their hand at surfcasting. Our coastline is dotted with sandy beaches, perfect for catching stripers and occasional blue fish. While it is possible to catch fish along the banks of the Kennebec up to Augusta, better fishing exists further down the coast. Anglers should focus efforts on areas such as Hills beach at the mouth of the Saco River, Parsons and Cresent Surf beach at the mouth of the Mousam River. Also as the month of July grows long, Pemaquid Beach Park, Popham Beach State Park, and Mile Beach at Reid State Park all offer excellent fishing opportunities. 

To combat crowds, focus fishing to the prime early morning and evening hours when fish are most active and beach goers most inactive. Also, keep a close eye on the fishing line to insure you don’t accidentally snag dogs or small children.

A basic surfcasting outfit need not break the bank. Sportsmen looking to try their luck chasing stripers or blues may already have a suitable beach fishing outfit. A medium weight rod and a reel, with a line capacity of 15-20 lbs, will work nicely when paired with a Kastmaster or pencil popper.

Beginners planning to fish off bottom, using bait and weights, should use a shock leader. This basically means tying a line of higher breaking strength to the lighter pound-test backer line. To join two monofilament lines together of different diameter, use an Albright knot. The heavy “shock” leader absorbs the energy of casting. Without it, anglers run the risk of breaking their line after just a few casts. The general rule is to use a 1 to 10 ratio or a 4 oz sinker matched to a 40 lb shock leader. Cut the leader long enough to wrap around the reel 5 times and run to the rod tip and back to the reel, this should provide ample leader for casting with confidence. 

The hobbyist surf fishermen, using fresh water fishing outfits, should be aware of the destructive power of sand and salt water. PVC pipes offer a cheap way of holding your rod and reel out of the gritty sand. Cut a 2 inch diameter PVC pipe to a length of 32 inches with one end square and the other cut at a 45 degree angle. Insert the sharp end in the sand the other end holds the rod. Fresh water rods and reels are not designed for continued use in saltwater and will quickly corrode. Care should be taken to rinse off rod and reel with fresh water upon returning home. Use a light spray of water so as to not force sand or water into the inner workings of the reel.

With a small investment, sportsmen wanting to become more serious about surfcasting can invest in rods and reels that are specifically designed to take the punishment of fishing in this rough environment. Reels come equipped with an almost infinite number of features and combinations. For someone new to the sport simpler is often better. A Penn 525 Magnum reel matched with a quality 10-12 foot surfcasting pole like Cabela’s Salt Caster series or Tica’s TC2 with graphite shaft is a rod and reel combination sure to bring years of enjoyment.

The easiest surfcasting technique for the beginner is to cast exactly as done now. The familiar basic cast will allow the lure or bait to be cast an acceptable distance. As individuals become more advanced, there are two additional casts anglers eventually will want to add to their repertoire. These casts should be practiced and mastered in a safe location free of people. A busy beach during the height of the tourist season is no time to be practicing new casting skills. 

The first cast is relatively easy and is called the off the ground cast. Once this initial casting technique is mastered, the second more complicated pendulum can be attempted. The off the ground cast will help you develop the muscle memory and coordination needed to learn the significantly more difficult pendulum. Mastering the pendulum, will require you to invest considerable time practicing, however, when done correctly will allow a lure or bait to be cast almost a 100 yards. For videos on how to successfully conduct both of these casts, perform a Google search for “off the ground surfcasting” or “pendulum surfcasting”. A word of warning, always watch the beach populace on back swings, people have absolutely no regard for beach anglers.

Lure & Baiting Considerations
Surfcasting lures come in a dizzying variety of colors, sizes, materials and forms. From soft plastic shads to hard plastic pencil poppers to metal Kastmasters. If you are looking for a solid lure, at a price pleasing to the wallet, purchase a package of Storm 4” pearl shads. These relatively inexpensive and versatile lures are incredibly effective and hold up well to all but the most aggressive blue fish.

Slide rigs for fishing bait off bottom, are available at many fishing shops. If you select one of these premade set-ups, be sure to choose one with a circle hooks. It has been shown, that fish hooked with J hooks die 27% of the time, as opposed to 2% with circle hooks. 

Frozen bait including mackerel, herring, shad and bunker are available from bait shops up and down the Maine coast. Places to purchase bait and an assortment of fishing supplies, include “Saco Bay Tackle” in Saco, “The Tackle Shop” in Portland and “Johnson’s Sporting Goods” in Brunswick.

Safety and Other Considerations
Fishing Maine’s popular saltwater beaches, during the height of tourist season, certainly have challenges. Tidal changes can cause relatively calm areas to quickly become unsafe as sea level increases create rip tides and erratic currents. 

Another danger of beach fishing is in the unsheltered exposure to the sun’s rays. To protect yourself from heat exhaustion/stroke, bring a portable seat for keeping off the hot sand, sunscreen, a wide brimmed hat and plenty of water for staying hydrated.

Sportsmen all have their favorite species of fish and specialized methods for catching them. This may mean using worms and bobbers to catching brook trout, fly-casting for salmon, trolling downriggers for togue, jigging saltwater smelts or using tip-ups to catch perch and pickerel. Whatever your fishing passion, give surfcasting a try this summer and ignite another outdoor obsession! 

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